School counselors: the one-stop shops of high school

“We like to say we're like a one-stop shop, because if there's something you need, odds are if we can't help you, we know who can.” —Guidance Counselor Kelly Bergmann

Changing classes, planning for college and signing up for AP tests are just a few of the duties guidance counselors at West have to help students. All of their work is related to their primary goal, helping students succeed.

“Our typical job involves whatever it is that a kid needs,” said Guidance Counselor Kelly Bergmann. “It can be needing a dollar for the bus, all the way through doing college applications and everything in between.”

Our typical job involves whatever it is that a kid needs.”

— Kelly Bergmann

While part of a counselor’s day is scheduled with meetings or appointments, the majority is open for students to meet with them. The counselors’ responsibilities when helping students can be split into two categories: career/college and social/emotional.

The category social/emotional overlaps some with the Student Family Advocates, also known as SFAs, often because counselors and SFAs work together with students.

“A lot of times students start with us and we’re good if it’s a one-time thing or something that maybe you struggle with every once in a while,” Bergmann said. “If it’s something that’s more social work-based, meaning you need connections to additional resources out in the community, or you need more frequent check-ins … then we refer to the student family advocates, and we work together on that.”

Along with SFAs, counselors work with teachers and parents when helping students. If they have a student who is struggling academically, counselors can meet with teachers to go through their Powerschool and make a plan to help improve the student’s work.

Aside from helping students, each of the counselors oversees one aspect of the Guidance Department. Bergmann takes care of all things College Board, including AP testing and the PSAT, Kay DiLeo focuses on Iowa Assessments, Paul Breitbach has the College Fair and Dance Marathon and Greg Yoder has scholarships, school profiles, and Kirkwood dual enrollment.

“You always go to your own counselor for anything, but take AP for example,” Bergmann said. “I’m the one that’s in charge of making sure every kid has them ordered, they’ve all submitted payment. When you walk into an AP test I’m the one that has all the materials there, all the place cards there, [I make sure] everything gets mailed and shipped. So it’s just a lot of logistics, making sure that everyone has what they need.”

While each counselor meets with around 10 to 25 students a day, either from scheduled sit-downs or quick pop-ins, the counselors are striving to do more. To reach more students, they are working with Student Senate to host grade-level workshops once a year, starting in December or January, to give students an opportunity to meet with their counselors.

“Every student in the whole building is going to have access to a smaller meeting,” Bergmann explained. “So for example, … I serve students E through J, so it’d be like my freshman E through J would be in the Little Theater during an AFT, and they’re working with me and a group of mentors that are older to talk about … what the guidance office does.”

The mentors would consist of a wide range of sophomores, juniors and seniors. They hope to get mentors with different academic experiences, different backgrounds and different post-secondary plans.

“The goal is if a student is sitting in the Little Theater, they can point to one of the mentors out there and be like, ‘I identify with that person,’” Bergmann said.

The goal is if a student is sitting in the Little Theater, they can point to one of the mentors out there and be like, ‘I identify with that person.’”

— Kelly Bergmann

Along with having mentors, the students at the workshop would receive handouts explaining what counselors do and what students should be doing throughout their four years, as well as including information about the SAT and the ACT.

“[The] packet [will have] information from that meeting and talk a little bit more [about] resources and things that we didn’t mention,” Student Senate member Favour Alarape ‘21 said. “[It is] so everyone has that one resource that they can get to … [if] they just don’t feel comfortable enough talking to their counselors they have that on a packet.”

The workshops are based on a meeting that City High has each spring for incoming seniors. They share information about the different tests that students are expected to take and information on applying for college.

“I think it’s a great idea … I had to search up the deadlines for the SAT and ACT because I had no clue whatsoever,” Alarape said. “I think that we should also not make a too strict way to follow, not everything works for everybody, but also not be too fluid and not be too rigid at the same time so find that balance where we can include everybody.”

If you have a question and whether it’s academic or not, come and see us, because if it’s not in our realm, then we will help you get connected to whatever it is that you need help with.”

— Kelly Bergmann

These workshops will help students realize the important resource of the counselors.

“If you have a question and whether it’s academic or not, come and see us, because if it’s not in our realm, then we will help you get connected to whatever it is that you need help with,” Bergmann said. “We want to know you, we want you to come in and we want you to see us more than just ‘I want to change my schedule.’”

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